*UPDATED* ANALYSIS: Why Honda is being outsold by Porsche in Germany
The second generation Jazz was launched in October 2008. Why is there no diesel engine?
German market passenger vehicle registrations are just out and there are some fascinating statistics in them. According to the numbers issued by the KBA (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt or federal motor transport authority), the largest declines over the five months to the end of May were for the combined Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge (-24.7%), Lancia (down 26.4% to a mere 72 cars compared to 24,055 for Audi) and Daihatsu (-22%). Chrysler is understandable for various reasons and Lancia has had few new products for some time but its new Ypsilon should soon improve things, while the Daihatsu brand is being wound down.
The other name that showed a major fall is Honda (down 38% in May), and this in a rising market. I mentioned Honda's problems a few weeks back when the Europe-wide ACEA numbers for April were issued but the ongoing decline in one of the world's largest national markets needs highlighting again. The company is suffering at the hands of Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Škoda and other mass-market brands, each of which has strongly rising sales.
Surely it is now time that Honda reconsidered its European strategy. One example: who in this region asked the question to which the new Jazz Hybrid is the apparent answer? And it should be clear that this isn't a one-off, temporary Tsunami-related stock supply problem, even with Honda Europe's Swindon plant in England having been off-line. It's model choice problems. Nissan can get away with having no entrant in the upper medium segment as five years back, it saw an enormous niche into which it slotted the Qashqai. Now that model on its own is a European segment, so large are the car's sales. One quick fix for Honda would be to drastically cut Accord prices and then heavily advertise what is a superbly engineered and undeservedly rare car.
Can Honda fight back? Of course it can. And it has too, soon. In May, Porsche outsold Honda 1,860 to 1,740 cars. That is how bad things have become: not to play down Porsche's sales rise but Honda should be outselling Porsche by a factor of three to one, as Nissan Deutschland does. German buyers have never been overly keen on Alfa Romeos, for various reasons. And yet, Germans are not so different from other Europeans, it would now appear: sales of the Giulietta are taking off and Alfa is the most improved brand of 2011 (+84% for the year to the end of May). Get the products right and the pricing right, and you can turn a brand around.
*6 June update* Registrations for May show that Honda, with only 2,835 sales, was outsold by Volvo (2,851) in the UK market. For the year to date, Honda GB's tally is 22,715, compared to 26,225 for Hyundai, though it has at least for now remained ahead of Kia's 22,184. Honda's year-on-year fall was 37% in May and 21% for the year to date, in a market that is off 7.3% as at end of the first five months.
Author: Glenn Brooks